Our discussion this week centers on the definitions for evangelism and witnessing. For Webb (author of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide), evangelism and witnessing are part of the Christian’s “job description.”
- In Acts 1:8, Jesus sends his followers out as his witnesses. What is the mental image that first comes to mind when you hear the word witnessing? What about the word evangelism? Are your associations mostly positive or negative? Why? The biblical word for evangelism comes from the Greek word for an announcement of good news. If evangelism is about good news, why might our associations with the word be negative?
- In his book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, J. I. Packer contends that, according to the New Testament, “evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel.” Packer continues, “Evangelizing . . . is not simply a matter of teaching, and instructing, and imparting information to the mind. There is more to it than that. Evangelism includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught. It is communication with a view to conversion. It is a matter, not merely of informing, but also of inviting” (41, 50). Do you agree with Packer’s definition? Why or why not?
- If evangelism is “preaching the gospel,” it seems important to define what we mean by preaching. Using a concordance, look up the occasions when the word “preach/ed/ing” is used in the Bible. Is preaching always a public event? Is it an oral presentation which comes from a religious expert such as a pastor? In what other ways might one “preach” without standing behind a pulpit and delivering a sermon? Is preaching (as we usually understand it) even the most effective means of evangelism? Would it help to understand that “preach” in the New Testament carries the idea of “heralding” or “telling” good news?
- Isn’t is dangerous to communicate “with a view to conversion,” as Packer described? Does this cause us to share the gospel with “strings” attached? Why is it that invitations to accept the gospel quite easily become manipulation and coercion? Does God press us for our decision for him, or does he woo us (See Hosea 2:14)?
- Read 1 Peter 3:15-16. Which is more important in witnessing: to be able to give an answer for the hope within us (vs 15) or to exhibit good behavior that acts as a defense against slander (vs 16)? In other words, which is most important in witnessing–our words or our deeds?
- Most definitions of witnessing and evangelism will refer to the gospel. What exactly is the gospel? Is it the same for everyone? Does 1 Cor. 15:1-11 help to answer this question?
- Read Acts 22:15 and 1 John 1:3. What must have occurred before we can witness to others about Jesus?